The Dallas County Republican Party has a new chair. Again.
After three ballots, former state Rep. Rodney Anderson of Grand Prairie was elected last night by the party’s executive committee. He faced Justice of the Peace Bill Metzger, former Vice Chairman Karen Watson, and former Dallas County Republican Assembly Chairwoman Dr. Ivette Lozano.
Anderson is the fifth county party chair since 2016, a period of time that has seen support waver for GOP candidates in and around Dallas. He succeeds Missy Shorey, who died a month ago. Shorey, the first woman to lead the county’s party, succeeded Phillip Huffines, the brother of former state Sen. Don Huffines and failed state senate candidate himself. Huffines succeeded Mark Montgomery, who defeated Wade Emmert in the primary. Both Huffines and Montgomery resigned. During these times, the party was a mess. Shorey was recruited to bring stability—and a young, fresh face—to the party.
Anderson, the former four-term legislator, was a last minute entrant, replacing former Executive Director Josh Parker. He had endorsements from a broad spectrum of the party, including Congressman Kenny Marchant, former colleagues Cindy Burkett and Kenneth Sheets, and their political rivals, former Congressional candidate and consultant Bunni Pounds.
“It is a privilege to serve the Dallas County Republican Party,” Anderson said in a statement. “As Chairman, I will protect the existing offices held by Republicans while recruiting strong, viable candidates, guarantee all individuals within our party have a voice and a seat at the table, ensure ballot security and election integrity, and broaden the base of our support.”
He also admitted the fight for 2020 is an uphill one.
“The 2020 election cycle in Dallas County is shaping up to be an extremely complex political puzzle. Campaign experience in building coalitions, analyzing precinct and election data, and fostering a unified Republican brand will be absolutely critical. Together, we will take the fight to the Democrats and create a path to victory,” he said.
While Democrats swept countywide offices in 2004, both parties have switched back and forth in controlling the majority of the state delegation. Republicans in 2010 clinched swing seats in 2010 as part of the successful nationwide Republican wave. But the cracks surfaced in 2016, when Rep. Victoria Neave of Dallas knocked off Sheets.
Last year, Democrats defeated five incumbents, including a congressman, state senator and four state representatives. They also flipped two open state House seats. Some attribute the near sweep to the enthusiasm for Democratic challenger, former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke who hoped to knock off Sen. Ted Cruz. “Beto-mania,” if not anti-Cruz sentiment, was seen to have a down ballot impact on down ballot races.
Anderson has benefitted from, and fallen victim to, wave elections. He defeated an incumbent Democrat in 2010, opted not to run in 2012, but then ran in the 2014, when he successfully defeated a powerful incumbent in the primary. He won reelection in 2016 by fewer than 50 votes, only to lose last year to Grand Prairie Democrat Rep. Terry Meza, his 2016 opponent.
While he holds reliably conservative opinions on issues like abortion and Medicaid expansion, he was a legislator focused on his district and nuts and bolts legislation. He signed onto bills restricting access to abortion, but also passed a bipartisan bill expanding insurance coverage for hearing aids for children under 18.
Districts like Anderson’s former Grand Prairie and Irving carve-out are changing demographically and politically. He knows this. State Democrats are only eight seats away from flipping the statehouse, which would give the party leverage ahead of redistricting. They may have the votes too: two of the most endangered Republican incumbents in the state are Rep. Morgan Meyer of Highland Park, who won by 200 votes, and Rep. Angie Chen Button of Garland, who won by slightly more than 1,000.
With President Donald Trump on the ballot next year, Dallas County may either experience another political wave like 2010 and 2018, or simply a ripple, like in 2016. Either way, Anderson will be the one leading the party into an uncertain future.